The first time I went to Sparkling Hill in Kelowna I looked at the room with the -110C Sauna* and thought it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard. After all, my trip to Kelowna was for the purposes of escaping the Calgary cold. I chuckled that I could just stand outside during winter with the same effect.
It was during our swim in the outdoor heated pool (in March!) that a couple was telling us that we really must try it. We were swayed by the “it’s the only one in North America and its only $40” argument. Topped off with the, “Where else are you have the opportunity!?” question.
I was swayed. But the sauna was booked for the duration of our stay. Ah well, “next time”. I didn’t realize “next time” would come so soon.
We went back to Sparkling Hill (now referred to as “my happy place”) last weekend. On our final morning, we put on our shoes, socks, and gym clothes and headed down the cold sauna.
In all honesty, even the day before, I was Googling whether this was safe or a good idea. The final few minutes before we entered the chamber my husband, who puts up with a lot of my crazy ideas, was looking at me and wondering what we’d just signed up for.
For an visual idea, the sauna looks like a meat locker – two heavy metal meat-locker doors and three windows, one for each temperature chamber. The whole technology originated in Japan and the sauna was built in Germany. That gave me some ease.
Why would one enter a -110C sauna? Advocates say it “alleviates pain and assists with inflammation, reduces the hypertonicity of muscles, improve joint and muscle function, reduce and relieve skin irritation, cutaneous lesions with neurodermatitis and psoriasis.” But all of this happens when the cold sauna is visited ten times over a six day period. For us, I wondered if we’d actually feel anything.
I was geared out in my yoga tank, shorts, shoes and socks. One of our companions donned her swimsuit. The more skin exposed, the greater the effect. I opted for half the effect. You also are provided double layered gloves, a face mask, and a headband for your ears.
Stepping into the first meat-locker door was daunting, but we were committed. It’s only -10C and after living in Calgary is pretty comfortable. You stand in the room for ten seconds before heading into -60C for ten seconds. The slow entry is not for your body to acclimatize, but rather to eliminate the elements between chambers. The -110C chamber is void of weather, wind, and humidity. Like my father-in-law told me when I moved to Calgary, “it’s not as bad because its a dry cold.” (He lied.)
It’s damn cold. That third door opens and you wonder what the hell compelled you to do this.
Our group leader started walking us around in a small circle. And he started talking. Though we could barely hear him through his face mask…and the fact it is -110C. We were advised to look straight ahead, not down, to reduce the risk of dizziness or nausea. My little mantra: “Keep walking, don’t tense your body, and shake your hands.”
Really, all I did for three minutes was look at another ladies eyelashes. Frosty and Frozen.
We kept on in this little circle walking and mid-way we switched directions. We made idle chit chat. My legs felt heavy and like the worst case of pins and needles you’ve felt. Oddly, my core never really got that cold.
Our walking seemed infinite until our guide said, 30 seconds. Suddenly it all felt doable. And then, the three minutes was over.
And by god, we rushed through the -60C and -10C chambers with lightning speed. I couldn’t wait for the relief of room temperature.
I was pink. I was wearing a pink tank top and matched the shade. My legs were bright red, as were my arms. They say, that the coloration is a good sign; it means good circulation. Oddly, I had white spots in my elbow creases. Bad circulation.
My body warmed up fairly quickly and we were advised not to take any hot drinks, showers, or saunas for a hour afterward. What was neat is that I did actually feel different – really, really energized. Like, let’s go for a run – even though I hate running & that’s a particularly bad idea right now – type of energized. I had anticipated that we’d want to sit for a while afterward, but it was completely the opposite – I felt like a champ.
Even now, I still think back to the lady with the frosty frozen eyelashes. She was on the plan to do it ten times in six days. I wonder if you get to number four or six and have a hard time wanting to continue. I think I would.
Since Sparkling Hill is my happy place, I don’t want it to be overrun with people. With that said, you really should go. Spend the three minutes and $40 in the -110C. After all, “where else are you going to have the opportunity to do it?”
Want to see the those meat-lockers and more of my happy place? Watch this video.
*Which for our US readers is -166F.